Most businesses in Boone County will be able to reopen Monday with restrictions intended to prevent a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
The Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services has published these guidelines for how various types of businesses can begin to reopen.
Columbia/Boone County Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning said at a community briefing Thursday that she signed new orders with guidelines detailing which businesses will be allowed to open and how. She said the order marks the beginning of “our journey to a new normal.”
The new orders will take effect Monday, which is when both the county and state stay-at-home orders expire. Browning did not set a specific date for when the new orders might end, but said she would reevaluate the county’s status in three to four weeks.
Under the new order, all retail establishments, gyms, restaurants, churches and other religious gathering places will be allowed to reopen. Locations of fewer than 10,000 square feet will be limited to 25% of their legal occupancy, while larger establishments will be limited to 10% of their capacity.
Personal care services, such as hair salons, nail salons and massage parlors, also will be allowed to reopen but will have to maintain social distancing to the extent possible. That means a maximum of 10 people in the building at a time with no more than one customer for each service provider.
Stations should be set up at least 6 feet apart, and Browning recommended removing “touch points” such as magazines.
Child care services and day camps will be allowed to open with limited occupancy and without mixing groups of children.
Pools also will also be allowed to open. Pools with attendants will be expected to monitor and enforce social distancing. Those without attendants will be prohibited from having no more than 10 people in the pool area at a time. Pool owners also will be expected to present a plan to the city for how they will monitor and disinfect their facilities.
Larger venues such as movie theaters, bars, bowling alleys and playgrounds must remain closed.
The order still limits public and private gatherings to no more than 10 people and requires that they, too, maintain social distancing.
Employees who are able to work from home should continue to do so, Browning and Mayor Brian Treece said.
Browning recommended that vulnerable populations, including elderly people and those with preexisting conditions, continue to stay home as much as possible.
“I implore every citizen to be responsible, to do the right thing, minimize your contacts with others, ask businesses to make the safety of their employees and customers a priority,” Browning said.
Browning said the decision to reevaluate in three to four weeks is based on the coronavirus’s incubation period of two weeks, plus extra time to monitor how the number of positive cases responds.
Browning warned that if the number of positive cases begins to increase once restrictions are loosened, officials will have to start tightening them again.
“If we see this curve stay flat, we’ll begin loosening up these regulations a little bit more. I have to emphasize, though: If we don’t and we start to see a spike, then we’ll have to step backward,” Browning said, “And I think that would be devastating.”
Treece said it’s important “that without a vaccine and widespread testing, we need to acknowledge that the coronavirus will be with us for a while” and that restrictions will have to remain in place.
He said city and county officials have been in talks with colleges, public schools and hospitals about “the unique set of challenges” that will occur if and when 30,000 students return to Columbia campuses in August and September.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill said the way the government acts now will shape how the public recalls the response to the virus decades from now. He said he would rather the government’s actions be remembered as cautious and responsible, rather than erratic.
“We have only one chance to get this right,” Atwill said. “There are no do-overs.”